The ebook market is becoming an increasingly crowded space. At first, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble were vying for customer dollars. But after Apple broke into the market with its iBooks service for the iPad, all that changed.
Now, publishers are able to send their books to be sold on several different electronic platforms and (hopefully) turn a profit in a space they originally feared. But there is another competitor making its way to the market-Google. Although the company doesn't plan to release its service until the summer, already Apple, Amazon.com and the others are looking over their shoulders wondering what the search giant has planned.
They should. Google has a tendency to enter markets, find the right place to promote a service and win out. If it doesn't win out, it typically performs well enough to succeed. That's precisely why its ebook move is so compelling. As much as Amazon.com and Apple would like to say that they own the space, it's very much up for grabs.
So far, the mainstream public hasn't moved to it in droves, still opting for hardcovers over electronic versions of a book. But as people become more aware of ebooks, they will be looking for the best solution out there. Right now, that might be Amazon.com's Kindle or Apple's iPad. In a few months, it could be Google's service, Google Editions.
Simply put, Google is well on its way to winning the ebook market. Here's why:
1. The mainstream trusts Google
The biggest challenge for any company in the ebook market right now is trying to get mainstream consumers to buy titles. That might not be as difficult as it was before the Kindle was released, but it's still tough. Google has the ability to draw the mainstream in a way that the rest of the competition in the space simply doesn't. Apple is convincing mainstream consumers to look at tablets. However, it's debatable whether iBooks will really turn out to be the killer app so many say it is. Google is trusted by the mainstream and its success to this point reflects that.
2. Ubiquity is everything
Amazon.com's decision to offer the Kindle ebook store to iPhone and iPad users was a smart one. But it didn't go far enough. Google plans to make Editions available in as many places as possible. Users will be able to buy ebooks online from a slew of retailers, including independent book stores. Google also hopes to make Editions available to mobile-device users accessing books from their browsers. Google has realized that the more places it can make books available, the more likely it is that users will buy them. It doesn't need to have one place that's bigger than Apple's store or Amazon.com's store. It just needs to have several places that combine to beat those stores.
3. It's not relying on a device
A major roadblock for most of Google's competitors in the ebook market is that they primarily rely on their own mobile devices to sell books. Currently, the Kindle is the go-to place for Amazon.com's books. Barnes & Noble's content is accessed mostly from its Nook e-reader. Apple's iBooks application is available to iPad customers. Google is different. The company isn't relying on a single e-reader to generate the bulk of its revenue. It realizes that relying so heavily on a single device will hold it back. And it plans to offer its books on as many products as possible. That's a smart move.
4. The publishers are warming to Google
Google has had some trouble in the past with book publishers that were concerned about its decision to put the full text of books online. But now that they realize the profit potential of ebooks, publishers are starting to warm to the search giant. For now, the company hasn't announced any partnerships with publishers, so it's tough to say exactly how many books will be available on its service. But given the success of the Kindle and iBooks, it wouldn't surprise me to see every major publisher and several smaller ones inking deals with Google. For them, it's just sound business.